Growing up, I never understood why I couldn't attend church with my friend, MaryBeth. She was Catholic, we were Lutheran, what could possibly be the difference? God is God, I thought. I felt the same frustration when it was made clear to me that I couldn't go to temple with my classmate, Eddie. He was Jewish. Adding to the confusion, my paternal grandmother was Congregational, my maternal grandparents were Methodist, and I sometimes attended church with them. I truly didn't understand what the problem was—worship was worship.
Even as a child, my heart longed to experience the Divine wherever it could be found, whether in nature or in man-made structures dedicated to the holy. This longing was never not there; it was something that lived in me from my earliest memory.
Finally, my wish granting day came. One Saturday during youth group we were told by our intern (Bob M, in residence at our church to become a pastor) that we should get outside the walls of our own church to see how other people experienced God. "God is much bigger than the God you know in this building," he said.
So on a Sunday morning a few weeks later, we found ourselves climbing aboard a bus headed toward First AME, a black church in our community where people joyously sang and danced out their devotion to God. Their prayers were loud, tearful and passionate. "Praise God from whom all blessings flow" took on an entirely new meaning for me that day. I found the experience mesmerizing, magical. And though I sat demurely and quietly with the rest of my group in the last pew, I felt as if my soul had been set free—as free as the white doves I imagined flying above the heads of the worshippers. Surely, this was heaven. Such joy! Such love!
My prayers to meet the Divine in other holy houses had finally been answered, my interspiritual journey had officially begun. There have been many more visits to similar places since then: Hindu, Buddhist and Bahai temples, Jewish synagogues, Catholic cathedrals, and Muslim prayer halls. Temples in nature too. In time, I became a teacher of World Religions, and one of my priorities was to take my students to visit other holy houses, and to meet with leaders of various traditions for intimate conversation so we could open our minds and hearts to one another. And to the Divine communally.
There is a poem that holds my interspiritual heart. Each time I read it, I experience a deep sigh of relief and peace moves through my body. It affirms the essence of what I know to be true.
In My Soul
For Your Reflection:
1. Does my story have resonance with yours?
2. What is your experience of the Sacred in various holy houses?
When I started this blog, I had intended to write weekly. That was in the summer, my "less busy" work time. Then September came, students showed up for a new year of learning, and seekers returned to spiritual direction to get their spiritual lives back on track. In September I also had the great good fortune to serve as a spiritual director for "Conspire"—the annual conference of the Center for Action in Contemplation founded by Fr. Richard Rohr. After that, more teaching intensives, as well as a "Board Retreat" for Spiritual Directors International, on whose Council I serve. Now it's time to catch my breath ...
In truth, for me, I don't ever catch my breath because I never lose it. Breath is always here, a sacred touchpoint, and it's simply up to me to connect with it--rest into it—which is my primary spiritual practice. This resting into the breath is a path of "quieting," a term used by my lovely friend, Ann, who named it as one of her spiritual practices too. Quieting is a method, a path, and also a quality of being we can carry forth into the world. It is a path to the Divine and where the One dwells. At least it is for me ... so quieting is primary on my path of devotion.
This fall when I was quite busy with my work, I'd try to get a daily walk in if I could. I'd go to a place of beauty near my home, often near water, and just walk. No earbuds to fill up the quiet with noise. Just me--quieting—breathing and being, walking and noticing, savoring and communing.
The quiet to me is a balm, an oasis in a too busy world, and relief from my ever-busy planning mind. The quiet is comforting for my over-active nervous system as an empath. The quiet is my entryway to a sacred space of deep knowing that I am beloved and I am enough. And this is where the Divine meets me. I call it my "Temple of Quietness."
Sometimes when I walk I take photos of the temple of the day. I do this to create a memory for myself so on the days I'm unable to walk, I can attune myself to it, and step into quietness once again. This summer while on a 5-day silent retreat, I started creating short, 30-second videos from my walks in these sacred spaces. Just 30 seconds, because that's sufficient time to take 3 complete breaths—a profoundly centering and restorative practice.
Today, with the help of one of my Temple of Quietness videos, perhaps you too can take 3 complete breaths and drop into the exquisite energy of quietness. May restoration and ease be yours.
For Your Reflection
• What role does quiet play in your spiritual life?
• How do you uniquely access it?
• Do you have your own Temples of Quietness?
A safe and welcoming space to explore the unfolding nature of our spiritual journeys.
Dr. Janice Lynne Lundy (PsyD, DMin, MPC)
is The Gerald May Professor of Spiritual Direction & Counseling at the Graduate Theological Foundation. She is an interspiritual director/mentor, educator and counselor who has been pointing people back toward the Sacred for nearly thirty years.